May 2003 Edition
Directory Assistance

by Patricia Nicholson

How do you look in yellow? That may be one of your most important marketing questions.

Classified directories are a $1.3-billion industry in Canada, says Mario Lemieux, president of Directory Advertising Consultants (DAC) Group, an agency specializing in classified and white pages directory advertising.

'It’s about the size of the radio medium, but a lot of marketing executives don’t recognize this,' Lemieux says. 'It’s a very significant area of investment, and 90 per cent of the investments are made by local firms.'

The Canadian industry includes more than 900 directories, containing 5000-plus categories, Lemieux says. Canadians consult these directories 200 million times each year. One of the biggest and most frequently referenced categories is restaurants.

'It’s one of our most important categories, one of the most popular ones,' says Daniel Hansen, General Manager of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for Yellow Pages Group. Of the millions of Canadians who consult restaurant headings in the Yellow Pages™, 82 per cent contact an advertiser, and 71 per cent of those make a purchase. Of that number, 36 per cent are new customers.

'For a restaurant, it’s very, very, very efficient,' Hansen says. 'So you can imagine how you can grow your customer base by using our directories.'

Competition in this field is growing in Canada, and markets that are served by only one directory are becoming rare. While many classified directories are printed on yellow newsprint, the name Yellow Pages – along with the walking fingers logo – is trademarked in Canada by the Yellow Pages Group, the biggest directory publisher in the country with about 41 per cent of the market. Yellow Pages has more than 200 directories, mostly in Quebec and Ontario. Its biggest competitor is SuperPages, with about 29 per cent of the market. SuperPages is the dominant publisher in western Canada with about 120 books, mostly in British Columbia and Alberta – but it has been moving into eastern markets for the past couple of years.

'They have a book in Toronto; they’ve published a very successful directory in Montreal,' Lemieux says. 'One of the reasons for the success was the fact that they included a very successful restaurant guide.'

'We try to produce a book that we believe consumers will use and advertisers will feel benefits them,' says Jules Heyward, Communications Manager for SuperPages. That, he says, means different products for different markets, rather than a national approach.

SuperPages’ competitive difference in its newer markets, Heyward says, is scope: listing a whole metropolitan area in a single directory. The company has used this 'one city, one book' approach in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

While rates vary from market to market, different size display ads and colour choices offer directory advertising options for every business and budget.

'The suite of products we offer allows our customers to build a level of advertising that they are comfortable with and can afford,' Heyward says. Display ads tend to provide bigger returns. These more prominent and detailed ads allow businesses to 'give customers more information about your product or service, and differentiate yourself from the competition,' Heyward says. 'They empower customers to make an educated decision to phone you, rather than your competition.'

Unlike other media, directories target highly motivated buyers: Consumers who are thumbing through classified listings are already looking for you and your product.

'They’re out there, they’re looking, they’ve got money in their hands,' Lemieux says. 'You just have to point it in the right direction.'

How much money have they got in their hands? Hansen says the average purchase is $93. And that may be spent close to home.

'Most of the time you would look for a restaurant that’s in your neighbourhood. That’s proven by a lot of independent studies,' Hansen says, adding that the Yellow Pages Group’s neighbourhood books, which it produces in larger markets such as Toronto and Montreal, are popular resources that add proximity to advertising information.

'We got so much good feedback that this year we created a dedicated sales force for our neighbourhood directories,' he says.

Hansen adds that display ads get 95 per cent of Yellow Pages references, so catching the consumer’s eye counts.

'What makes a good ad? One that has a good headline that tells you something different and unique – not just pizza,' says Christopher Bacey, Director of Communications for Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association, the U.S.-based body that regulates the directory advertising industry in North America. Your ad should carry your message, grab attention and, of course, have an easy-to-find phone number. But don’t overlook print basics. Like any other print ad, Bacey says a directory display ad should have white space, be easily readable, and keep the eye moving. It should be memorable and draw the eye.

Colour can make a difference too – now more than ever.

'People are used to very high-end graphics,' Bacey says, with not just magazines and Web sites, but even newspapers routinely using colour.

Bacey also adds that research has proven that classified directory advertising extends the effectiveness of other media by about 21 per cent in the restaurant category. 'That’s radio, tv, magazines – almost every medium.'

It is also a medium in which you can track success. It’s common to associate a unique phone number with a directory ad, so advertisers can see the number of calls – and customers – generated by that ad.

'Overall we have found that for every dollar invested in the medium, the average payback is about 14 to one on a return basis,' Lemieux says. 'That’s very significant.'

As an agency and certified marketing representative (or CMR), DAC Group provides advice on size and content of ads, placement, strategy and overall image. DAC is the largest agency of its kind in Canada, and serves regional and national clients.

'Our mandate would be to co-ordinate their directory listings in advertising throughout Canada,' Lemieux says. A CMR can provide strategy, research and objectivity in ad planning. 'The other thing that we do is make sure that there’s a whole online component. The online directories are gaining ground. Our personal opinion is that online directories right now account for approximately 10 per cent of the traffic.'

Lemieux’s advice is that directory advertising is one of the most effective media buys you can make when it is planned appropriately. 'Do not dismiss this medium,' he says. 'It’s probably a very important potential source of new customers for you.'

The Strength of Yellow Page Advertising in the 'Restaurant Heading' Profile

Who's Calling? : 31% of the Canadian adult population has referred to this heading in the Yellow PagesTM directories in the past year, which equals 7,327,232 adult Canadians.

Average spent on purchase: $93.00

What they Look for: 72% have a name in mind

28% have no name in mind

Reason they call: 98% Personal

2% Business

How they Follow up: 82% contact an advertiser, and of these,

71% make a purchase, and of these, 36 percent are new customers.

How they use the Yellow Pages: 95% Of references are to display ads.

80% Consider 2 or more ads.

The Proof: The study was conducted in 2000 by a third party organization, Canadian Facts, one of the largest research companies in Canada. A self-administered mail questionnaire was designed to measure consumers' Yellow pageTM usage for 100 headings. Data was collected among 4712 adults 18 years of age or older and is representative of the Canadian adult (18+) population.